10 Questions with ... Dave Kester
August 25, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
26 years in both commercial and non-commercial radio, with the last eight as Dir./Programming and Operations at WNCW. My prior stops include PD and OM at WFMX-WSIC/Statesville, NC - The John Boy and Billy Radio Network and WKKT/ Charlotte, NC
1. How did you become interested in radio?
I started out interested in having a career in the music industry, but while I was in college I did a radio internship at Y106 and Y104 in Atlanta. I got bitten by the radio bug and never looked back.
2. With the station coming up on its 25th anniversary, what are your plans to celebrate?
We are mostly working on various birthday party events, centered around concerts at local venues in our markets. We also produce a double-disc CD each year that consists of various songs from the sessions from our live performance studio. We're working on a special 25th Anniversary edition of that. Our license holder is Isothermal Community College. While we're celebrating the stations 25th anniversary, the college is celebrating its 50th this year. Obviously the station has a role in promoting both anniversaries.
3. How has the sound of the station changed or evolved over that time?
I really don't think it's changed tremendously. The current and previous members of the staff have tried to remain relatively true to the original format that the station was founded on. It truly is an eclectic mix of music. While our focus has morphed over time to lean more Triple A and Americana, you'll find nearly every genre of music imaginable on the airwaves of WNCW. Americana, Triple A, Blues, Classic Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass, Classic Country, Soul, Reggae and more are all a part of the mix. I'm fortunate to have an incredibly talented air staff that can put it all together. I'm also proud of our focus on local music. There are a lot of talented musicians in our area and I'm glad we can give their music a home on the radio.
4. Although licensed to Spindale, NC, WNCW is really a regional station with its reach. Tell us a bit about that.
It helps to have a tower site on top of Clingman's Peak, right next to Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. At that altitude, our main 88.7 signal really carries. That's why we have listeners and members in the Asheville and Charlotte markets in North Carolina and the Greenville-Spartanburg market in South Carolina. Additionally, we have translators in each of those markets, as well as one in Boone, NC. There's also 90.9 WSIF in Wilkesboro, NC, which re-broadcasts the main 88.7 programming via an Internet feed.
5. How do you stay in tune with your diverse audience?
Trust me, it's not a problem. Our audience is invested in the station. They're like family and they don't mind telling you what they think about anything to do with the station. I spend a lot of time on listener/member correspondence. A lot of it comes via e-mail and phone calls. Social media is another important avenue. We also have a presence at most all the regional festivals. When we're there, we ask folks for input via surveys and we also do online surveys. Some are general questions about the station and some are more music-focused. We also do a listener voted Top 100 Countdown each year.
6. Is all the staff paid or is there a volunteer element to the station?
We have a paid staff, but we also have a great bunch of volunteers as well. Some are on-air and host shows, some work events, some help out with office work, some help with the pledge drives and some do all that and more. We couldn't do what we do without our volunteers. They're a fantastic group of people and we depend on them heavily at times.
7. What are some of your biggest challenges at the station?
I'd say it's mainly manpower. With such a small staff (only 12 full-time), it's hard to be involved in everything that we want to, or that our supporters want us to. If it weren't for the staff's dedication and an army of volunteers it would be impossible.
8. What big annual events does the station tie into?
Probably the biggest is the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. Warren Haynes is a native of Asheville and each year he comes back home to do a Christmas Jam, where he gathers an incredible group of A-list acts, with all the proceeds benefiting the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. The night before the actual Christmas Jam, they do a Pre-Jam at a local venue called the Orange Peel in Asheville. Many of the performers from the Christmas Jam come in a day early and they all get together for an impromptu jam session. Various artists will sit in on the other bands' sets. We broadcast it live on WNCW. It's always one of the coolest shows you'll ever get to see. The concept for the Pre-Jam originated in our Studio B.
We also have a great relationship with Merlefest up in Wilkesboro. Some of our air staff handle stage announcements and we also broadcast Merlefest live on WSIF. It's grown into one of the largest festivals in the Southeast and they have an amazing lineup of talent each year. It really highlights the regions musical heritage, but has grown to include many styles of music. I've seen everyone from Rhonda Vincent and Merle Haggard to The Tedeschi Trucks Band and Robert Plant at Merlefest. It's just another incredible musical treat of our region.
9. What is your typical day like?
It changes by the minute. I always come in with this great plan of what I'm going to get accomplished for the day and it never goes the way I plan it. It's really just the typical "trying to run a radio station" deal. Everything from programming to engineering issues, fall into my realm of responsibility.
10. If you wanted to completely change careers today, what would you do?
There's nothing else I'd want to do. I've had other jobs and none of my best days at another job will ever be as good as my worst day in radio.
Last non-industry job:
Supervisor in a manufacturing plant.
First record ever purchased:
Dare I say it? Kiss - Rock and Roll Over
Elvis Presley. Went with my parents and the car broke down in the parking lot after the show. I think I was seven. Elvis is still the King.
Favorite band of all-time:
I know this is weird for a public radio guy, but Kiss - Yes, that's what I said. I'm not sure if my fascination with them is the music, the wild stage show or their marketing prowess, but if you've never seen them live, it's a spectacle to behold.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from work?
What's this "spare time" you speak of? No, really it's just spending time with my wife and son. I also can't resist a round of golf on occasion.